Chapter 6 - Case Studies and Observational Research
Terms in this set (99)
Difficulty remembering events/memories from earlier in one's life.
Difficulty forming new long term memories of new experiences.
What is fundamental to all scientific inquiry?
An in depth analysis of an individual, social unit, event, or other phenomenon.
Vary greatly in scope, how data is collected, analyzed and reported. Core feature remains the researchers' focus on comprehensively examining a particular case.
The "case" in a case study may be an individual person, nonhuman animal, a larger unit (married couple, work group, organization, community, nation) a past or current event, a program, or even an activity.
When the case study is a social unit how do researchers usually collect data?
When its a social unit such as a family, sports team, high school, business organization, etc., they usually collect data from either all members or a sample of individual members from that social unit.
Why is flexibility a strength of case studies?
Because it allows researchers to draw upon a wide variety of techniques to gather data. As data collection proceeds, it may give rise to new questions that the researcher may decide to explore, or indicate limitations in the study's design or execution that the researcher is able to remedy within the remainder of the study.
What are some advantages of case studies?
Because they can provide considerable information/detail about unusual events and people who have rare psychological abilities or disorders. Case studies also provide insight into more common psychological experiences and afflictions. They provide a rich narrative.
They also provide insight into the possible causes of behaviour and lead to hypotheses that are tested using other research methods.
They enable scientists to assess changes in psychological functioning and can lead to hypotheses about the role of specific brain structures in regulating normal behaviour.
They can also test hypotheses and provide evidence that support or contradict a theory or viewpoint.
They can provide support for the external validity of findings obtained in experiments of other types of research.
Concerns the degree to which the findings of the study can be generalized to other populations and settings.
Qualitative Case Study
To examine an individual case in depth, within its real-life context.
It is the essence of a case study. Typically seeks to gain a multifaceted, holistic understanding of the case, including an awareness of how the participant or participants perceive their situation or the phenomenon being studied.
The researcher attempts to gather multiple types of data in order to understand the individual and the surrounding context from the individual's point of view.
Quantitative Case Study
Researchers rely primarily on numerical assessments and analysis to describe and understand a case.
Researchers rely substantially on both qualitative and quantitative data analyses to explore a case.
Best viewed along a continuum, blending qualitative and quantitative components to varying degrees.
Intrinsic Case Study
A case is examined depth due to some inherent interest in learning about that particular case.
Instrumental Case Study
A case is analyzed in depth because it is an example of, or otherwise provides information about, a broader phenomenon.
How do psychologists use intrinsic and instrumental case studies?
Individual cases are most often studies for instrumental purposes or a blend of intrinsic and instrumental reasons. When a case is intrinsically compelling, psychologists typically study it to illuminate some process, activity or condition.
Collective Case Study
Which each of several cases is studied in depth for the purpose of learning about a broader phenomenon.
Researchers could study three amnesia patients or three organizations, each of which would be the focus of its own in depth analysis of each organization or patient, collectively comparing or contrasting the cases, looking for commonalities and differences that help to better understand the nature of the organizations success or the patients amnesia.
Collective case studies are similar to those of multiple case study designs.
Single Case Study Design
Researchers analyze one case in depth.
This allows researchers to concentrate their available resources (funding, time, etc) on that case, enabling a more in-depth analysis than might be possible if they studied multiple cases.
Are often used in fields such as clinical psychology and neuropsychology, as well as medical science, in which published case studies detail the symptoms.,current situational context and history, and treatment of an individual who has a particular disorder.
How are single case studies used in social or industrial psychology, anthropology, sociology, and business?
They might be used to examine a single social clique, work group, community, or business organization.
Multiple Case Study Design
Researchers examine two or more cases and perform an in-depth analysis of each case.
This design refers to performing a set of case studies within an overarching investigation of a topic.
They simultaneously carry on more than one case study, but each study is a concentrated inquiry into a single case.
What is a potential disadvantage of the multiple case study design?
That researcher may need more researches to conduct the study, or if those aren't available, they may have to scale back on how deeply they plan to analyze each case.
What is an advantage of the multiple case study design?
That researchers may choose to study the multiple cases sequentially, gathering and analyzing the data from one case before moving on to the next.
Insights learned from one case may help the researchers refine their topic and measures (ex: interview questions) before gathering data about the next case.
It also allows researcher to compare and contrast cases, a technique called cross-case comparison. In studies where generalization is a goal, a multiple case study may allow researchers to examine whether the findings they obtain for one case replicate across other cases.
What do case studies in psychology typically include?
Direct observation and questioning.
What type of observation is used in qualitative case studies?
Naturalistic observation and participant observation.
What type of observation is used in quantitative case studies?
In qualitative case studies, how is questioning often done?
Via semi-structured interviews, especially in instances when the case represents a larger social unit (school, hospital, work group) from which multiple members will be interviewed.
The researcher identifies in advance a set of topics or themes to be discussed with the interviewee, but the way and sequence in which questions are asked to remain flexible.
Questions are typically open-ended rather than the more structured rating scale questions used by quantitative researchers, and the question sequence is flexible to enable the interviewer to explore issues raised by the interviewee in more detail. To provide structure, the interviewer usually has a written guide that lists the topics to be covered.
A moderator leads a group of people through an interview and discussion of a set of topics.
Focus group members may be selected because they are similar to one another (all managers in a particular unit of a company) on some key characteristic, or instead, selected to create a diverse group (managers in different units, or employees working in different jobs).
A set of topics/questions is determined in advance, but allowance is made for open ended group discussion.
Can be video/audio recorded, and the records can be used to generate a written transcript of the session that provides the basis for quantitative or quantitative analyses.
Locked In Syndrome
People are fully conscious but experience a total voluntary muscle paralysis except for the ability to blink or make vertical eye movements.
Involves the conscious recall of personal experiences.
What are the limitations of case studies?
1) The difficulty of drawing clear causal conclusions.
2) The generalizability of the findings.
3) The potential for observer bias.
Why aren't case studies well suited for drawing clear causal conclusions about how one variable affects another?
There are usually many factors that could be responsible for causing a person or a group to act a certain way, or for causing an event or other outcome to occur. Potential causes can operate individually or in various combinations and in a case study it's difficult to sort them out.
The researchers just don't have a high degree of control over variables needed to rule out alternative explanations.
Why do case studies potentially lack generalizability?
It applies to all research but whether findings are based on only a single case or a small number of cases are especially likely to have low external validity.
There is always a risk that the sample of people studied may be atypical, even highly atypical, of the population from which they are drawn. This is more likely to happen with a sample of one person or a few people rather than many people - although it doesn't mean that the result from a study will ultimately always fail to generalize.
Occurs when researcher have expectations or other predispositions that distort their observations.
Researchers with two different theoretical frameworks and expectations might selectively focus their attention on different behaviours or perceive the same behaviours differently. Their expectations can also influence the behaviour of the people they are studying.
The strong reliance on the researcher's direct observations, and the prolonged and often intensive direct contact between researcher and participant enhance the potential influence of observer bias.
Why are ethics such an important issue in case study research?
1) A wealth of detailed information, such or much of it being highly personal, may be collected about the case.
2) The large amount of detail presented in the research report may increase the risk that other people, especially "insiders" such as other members of a group, will be able to piece together the identity of the case.
The researchers must takes strong precautions to prevent the loss of anonymity, and specify the nature of any social risk when obtaining participants' informed consent.
Encompasses different types of non experiment studies in which behaviour is systematically watched and recorded.
What are the advantages of observational research?
Well suited to describing behaviour because it involves recording the behaviour of many participants, and affords excellent opportunities to examine relationships among many variables.
It can be exploratory and used to test hypotheses and theories.
Its poorly suited to drawing clear causal conclusions, but may suggest possible causal relations that can be subsequently exam using controlled laboratory experiments.
They also help to establish the generalizability of principles previously discovered in experiments.
When practical and ethical issues make it difficult or impossible to conduct experiments on a particular issue, observational studies remain a viable approach for gathering information.
Researcher passively observe behaviour in a natural setting.
The word passive means that researchers try to avoid direct involvement with the individuals who are being observed.
Disguised vs. Undisguised Observations
Based whether the individuals being studied are aware they are being observed.
Naturalistic observation can be classified this way - between the two.
Undisguised occurs when participants know they are being observed, its not hidden from them. Ex: watching animals in the wild.
Disguised occurs when individuals aren't aware of the observer's presence.
What is an advantage of naturalistic observation?
By definition, it examines behaviour under what are sometimes called "ecologically valid" conditions which addresses the similarity between the research setting and settings that occur in real life.
With naturalistic observation the setting is "real life".
Disguised has the added advantage that the behaviours observed have not (in principle) been distorted by the presence of the observer.
What is an important issue regarding the findings from naturalistic observation?
Will the findings have external validity.
Why is it often assumed that because people are studied in a real-world setting rather than a lab that the findings will have greater external validity?
Because people know from the start that the findings apply to at least one real-world setting, which is something that can't be said about the laboratory. But the findings still need to be established by conducting new studies in diverse settings and with different populations.
What is the chief disadvantages of naturalistic observation?
The complexity of behaviour, the lack of control over the setting, and the practical difficulties of observing every important behaviour that takes place.
Many factors are likely to influence the participants behaviour at any given time and the observer doesn't have the ability to control the research setting in order to isolate some factors while holding others constant.
When participants are being recorded life, its usually impossible to observe everything they do, and even if its examined later on, the volume of behaviours to review may be overwhelming.
It enhances the risk that the observer's presence will cause participants to alter their behaviour.
What does the APA require for naturalistic observation research?
The APA Ethics Code permits naturalistic observation research without informed consent (allowing disguised observation possible) if several conditions are met:
1) The study is not expected to cause participants harm or distress.
2) Confidential information is protected.
3) If participant's responses were to become known, this would not expose them to social, economic, or legal risks.
Occurs when the process of observing (or otherwise measuring) behaviour causes that behaviour to change.
Even if the observer isn't physically present, if participants are aware that their behaviour is being recorded, they may not act naturally.
The observer becomes a part of a group or the social setting being studied.
It has been used to study behaviour in a variety of settings, including psychiatric hospitals, climbing expeditions, senior centres, gambling locations, etc.
Theory of Cognitive Dissonance
People have a psychological need for their cognitions to be consistent with one another. When two cognitions are inconsistent, people will experience an unpleasant psychological state of tension.
Disguised Participant Observation
The researchers become part of the group they are studying and withhold from other group members the fact that they are observing the group's behaviour for scientific purposes.
Undisguised Participant Observation
The researcher is part of a group they are studying but its not withheld from members that they are studying the group's behaviour for scientific purposes.
This method avoids the ethical issue of deception that arises when researchers conceal their identity.
The tradeoff concerns whether participants explicit knowledge that the new person among them is a researcher who will cause participants to become more self conscious and alter their behaviour.
A qualitative research approach that often combines participant observation with interviews to gain an integrative description of social groups.
A key goal is to explore the contest in which behaviours occur and the meaning of those behaviours as perceived by group members.
Results from this research are typically described in a narrative, storyline form, rather than through statistical analyses of numeric data.
What is an advantage participant observation?
Its key benefit is the opportunity to study people's behaviour from the viewpoint of an insider. It provides a greater opportunity to gain insights about the personal meaning of behaviour to group members, particularly when the observation is undisguised and the researcher is thus free to supplement observations with interviews or other data collection methods.
With disguised participant observation, sometimes its the only way to gain access to a group.
What is a disadvantage of participant observation?
Whether disguised or undisguised, there runs a greater risk of influencing the behaviour they are studying because their involvement in the situation is more active.
Because participant observers are interacting with group members for long time periods, it raises the risk of losing objectivity or make it difficult to maintain appropriate boundaries with group members.
A researcher fully or partly configures the setting in which behaviour will be observed.
The participants may be presented with specific tasks, or expose them to social situations that have been created, then observe their responses.
The tasks and situations are often designed to be representations (analogues) of circumstances that occur naturally.
Sometimes it is called Analogue Behavioural Observation.
Researchers create "analogues" of naturally occurring situations. Affords more efficiency and control compared to other forms of observational research, but greater potential for reactivity.
Ex: Childhood reminiscing and "scaffolding".
What is an advantage of structured observation?
There is greater efficiency and control. When the observational setting is structured, the researcher can expose participants to the same tasks, make things happen at a specific time or place, save time and money by eliminating long waits for the target behaviours to occur spontaneously.
If the setting is in a lab, this exposes all participants to the same physical environment and eliminates sources of distraction that might interrupt the observation process or affect participant behaviour.
What is a disadvantage of structured observation?
The setting, especially in the lab, is only an analogue of real life. Therefore the question is raised whether or not the behaviour or associations between variables that were observed under those circumstances actually represent what occurs in natural circumstances.
Its also rarely disguised so the potential increases for reactivity to occur.
An ongoing description of behaviour that is used for later analysis. Detailed descriptions of behaviour from observational research.
Less comprehensive than narrative records. Recorded important impressions or instances of behaviour. Used in observational research.
Behavioural Coding Systems
Which involve classifying participants responses into mutually exclusive categories, and are a major component of observational studies.
They take a lot of work to develop, and they must be reliable and valid. The categories must be mutually exclusive and clear, and the observers well trained so that different observers watching the same behaviour will assign the same codes.
A coding system, and the observers who use it, constitute a measurement device.
Observer Rating and Ranking Scales
Used to evaluate participants' behaviour or other characteristics.
Ex: Peer Nominations - asking members of a group to name a fellow member who best meets some criterion.
Asks participants to record their behaviour or experiences for defined periods of time whenever certain events take place.
Can contain general and specific questions that call for unstructured responses. Also may include a checklist to record the frequency of certain behaviours or even may contain rating scales.
What data collection methods are not typically considered observational research?
Participant diaries or through ratings made by people who know the participants.
This type of researcher may be called a diary study, a questionnaire study, or a correlational study.
Its the presence of trained observers and a focus on recording ongoing behaviour that makes research observational.
Also called interrater reliability.
Represents the degree to which independent observers show agreement in their observations.
Various statistics are used to calculate inter observer reliability, depending on the type of data being recorded and the number of observers recording the same event.
One of the most common statistics for calculating the reliability between two observers. It represents the percentage of times that two observers agree, over and beyond the degree of agreement that would be expected to occur by chance.
What does interobserver reliability require?
A well developed coding system, or other measure of behaviour, and extensive observer training.
What decreases interobserver reliability?
It takes years to develop and refine behavioural coding systems and they need to accurately reflect the types of behaviour occurring. So each category needs to be clearly defined.
If each category isn't defined clearly, categories of coding overlap, then the observers can be confused. They are more likely to disagree.
If there are too many categories, then there will likely be more errors and reliability will decrease.
What are some ways to record observations?
Behavioural Coding Systems
Rating and Ranking Scales
For a list of behaviours, observers place a mark to record that behaviour has occurred during a particular event or time period.
Rating or Ranking Scales
Evaluate behaviour (frequency or quality) or a characteristic by rating or checking it.
Behavioural Coding System
Classify responses into mutually exclusive categories. Records each instance of a behaviour with a tally mark or enter a time of day it occurs. Uses codes to record behaviour sequences.
When is a coding system with many categories more feasible?
When working from written transcripts, video recordings that can be paused and reexamined, or when having the responsibility to make live recordings of only a sample of behaviours (record only a single behaviour occurring at the start of a 30 second interval).
When is a coding system worthless?
When observers are not trained properly.
Used to select a particular member (or unit) who will be observed at any given time.
At preselected times the observer rapidly scans each member of a group so that the entire group is observed within a relatively short period.
Multiple scans of the entire group are taken throughout the study.
The preselected times can be minutes or hours apart.
What should a behavioural coding system have in order to be effective?
Only a small number of categories so that the researcher can rapidly shift observations and data recoding from one member to another.
Used to establish diverse settings in which behaviour is observed, which in turn increases the external validity of the findings as compared to sampling behaviour only in one setting.
It creates a more representative sampling of behaviour than would be the case if behaviour were only observed in one location.
When researchers are unable to record behaviour continuously throughout the entire period of study they use this method.
It is used to select a representative set of time periods during which observations will occur.
How can observer bias be minimized?
1. A well developed coding system with clear operational definitions of the various behaviour categories.
2. Rigorous observer training.
3. Periodic checks to make sure that observers (the investigators or trained assistants) are using the system reliably.
Observers should be kept unaware (blind) to all hypotheses being tested and any key information about participants that relates to those hypotheses.
A decrease in the strength of a response, over time, to a repeated stimulus.
An approach to minimizing reactivity.
What is a problem with habituation?
Generally reliable but not always perfect. May take a long time for the participant or person/animal being observed to habituate, and once habituated, instances may still occur when the subject reacts to the presence of the observer.
Physical Trace Measures
Unobtrusively examine traces of behaviour that people create or leave behind.
Assesses behaviour without making people aware that the behaviour is being measured.
Unobtrusive means "inconspicuous" or "not blatant."
Researchers use it to reduce reactivity.
Electronically Activated Recording.
Modified Digital voice recorder that periodically records brief snippets of ambient sounds. Participant wears it attached to belts or purse while going about their daily lives. The method is unobtrusive because it operates imperceptibly.
Avoids ethical issues associated with covert observation and is less obtrusive then following participates around.
Previously existing documents or other data that were produced independently of the current research.
Can include collections of government documents, corporate files, letters, photographs, popular media, and other kinds of records..
What are the limitations with archival records and unobtrusive measures?
1) Disguised observation, any withholding of information or active deception that keeps participants unaware of the true behaviours being measured, and any use of archival records must be ethically permissible.
2) Physical trace measures or archival records might not be available or even a plausible option for many variables that psychologists study.
3) If physical trace or archival measures are available then there may be alternative viewpoints as to what physical traces or records actually represent.
4) The original data collection might not have been ethically permissible.
Designed to describe and measure the behaviour of people or animals as it occurs in their everyday lives.
In many cases, the only possible approach to collecting data.
Its research in its natural state.
They are (1) intensive and (2) exhaustive examinations of a single person or a small group of individuals.
A valuable tool in unusual or rare conditions. Ex: Progeria and resilience.
How are case studies intensive?
They seek a depth of knowledge concerning important components of the person's life.
They often involve detailed and open minded descriptions provided via multiple assessment techniques.
Ex: Physiological, standardized testing (cognitive, emotional, personality, etc), and clinical interviews.
They examine in a narrow fashion within research.
How are case studies exhaustive?
They seek breadth of knowledge. Meaning that multiple sources of information outside of the person are tapped for the additional insight they provide.
Ex: Families (parent, siblings), schools (teachers, coaches, students), Friends, Organizations (scouts, guides, sports, military service records).
What are the advantages of case studies?
They are useful in understanding rare or abnormal behaviour (such as Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy).
They provide a much richer and more elaborate information than simple surveys.
They can help form new hypotheses. If the case study gets published, it can be re-analyzed and perhaps locate inaccuracies.
What are the disadvantages of case studies?
Its purely descriptive, cannot assume causality.
Subject to biases of the researcher who may have a particular theoretical agenda.
There is poor external validity (poor or limited generalizability).
Participant Vs. Observer
The researcher may choose either to be a participant in the observational research by interacting with other participants or to remain an observer of the setting.
Acknowledged Vs. Unacknowledged
The researcher must decide whether to acknowledge the observation is occurring to the people being observed or to remain unacknowledged.
The Unacknowledged Observer
The researcher who is unobtrusive. They remain hidden or disguised. Unaware.
Catches naturalistic behaviour as it occurs in ecologically valid settings.
Ex: Attachment styles at an airport. Robert Sapolsky watching baboons.
The Acknowledged Observer
The researcher. They are identified and known to participants. It "could" produce reactivity where participants behave differently.
Can be subtle or obvious.
The Acknowledged Participant
The Researcher: Participates in the setting and acknowledges the research to other participants.
Is unable to hide their identity as a scientist because its unethical to do so.
May experience problems with reactivity.
The Unacknowledged Participant
The researcher: Participates in the setting and does not acknowledge this to other participants.
May get those begin observed to reveal personal or intimate information about themselves and their social situation.
May have difficulty remaining objective. May influence the process being observed.
Narrative Records: Extensive description of behaviour as it unfolds.
Field Notes: Less comprehensive records of behaviour.
Behavioural Coding Systems: Categorize behaviours into mutually exclusive categories.
Focal Sampling: Focus on one participant at a time.
Scan Sampling: Observe everyone for a short period of time at predetermined intervals.
Situation Sampling: Observe behaviour across multiple settings - increases external validity.
Time Sampling: Conduct observations over representative set of time periods (morning and afternoon, etc).
Methods to Avoid Reactivity
Disguised observation, habituation, physical trace measures, archival records.
Based on an analysis of any type of existing records of public behavior such as:
-Television and radio broadcasts
-Internet Web sites (ex: memorial tributes)
-Existing surveys (ex: data sets from other researchers)
-Speeches and letters of public figures
(ex: Ballard & Suedfeld (1988) - integrative complexity of Canadian Prime Ministers)
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